The Inherent Superiority of Sad Music

Friday, February 12

By Piper Rae Davidson

I am going to admit up front that I can have inordinately strong opinions on relatively unimportant matters. On the very top of the list, is my firm belief that sad songs are inherently better than happy songs. Often am I ridiculed for listening to sad songs, especially when I am in a particularly good mood. Just yesterday I added Gnash’s  “Broken Hearts Club” to what appeared to be a fairly happy playlist, and was met with endless questioning from my, admittedly more logically minded, best friend. My justification couldn't go farther than insistence that it “fit the vibe of the playlist”. Yet, I’ve always known I preferred sad music, and I was certain I couldn't be the only one.

And so my research began. According to a 2016 article by Science Alert, sad music can actually improve your mood, as it can trigger happy memories. Sadness is one of the strongest human emotions, and can be felt on a multitude of levels. This results in sad songs often being lyrically stronger and heart hitting than happier alternatives. To put it simply, sad music evokes a higher level emotion from the individuals listening to it. On a similar note, sad music resonates with us, and attaches itself to memories throughout our life - hence triggering memories of varied emotions. 

Now I won't continue to bore you with the science behind it all, instead let's talk Lorde. The face of sad music for many, she has made a career out of transforming anguish into art with a keyboard. There is something, almost poetically, appropriate to this screwed up day in age when a lovely, talented, empowered young woman is making bank with a song lamenting how she is a liability to those she loves.  See the thing is, I get the incongruity, the “see what I did there” joke of the whole thing, and while the tempo is sad, I end up feeling “you go girl.”  It makes me happy to chew on her performative misery, even if in reality it might be a little hard to swallow.  I could continue on about the masterpiece that is Melodrama, but that is an article for another day. 

On the flip side, let’s talk about these relentless up tempo happy songs that, while providing a surface level serotonin rush, lack even an ounce of depth. The first chord of Pharrel Williams “Happy” is a trigger event for many - not because it's been played to death, or because it's a bad song per se, but because it's so obviously artificial.  Now I'm not trying to say that there is no need for these songs, as everyone needs a fun song to dance to every once and awhile. Instead I am simply saying that they do not hold up when compared to the complexities of sadder alternatives. 

               I’m a hot air balloon that could go to space

               With the air, like I don’t care, baby by the way,

                Huh, (Because I’m happy)

  I get that song lyrics should not be held to literal meanings, but can we really just throw nonsense against an upbeat tempo, give it a shine on moonbeam title, and expect it to wash all our troubles away.  No. No we can’t.  Sometimes you have to take a stand (for me that’s about every three days), and speak truth to power. A sad song, with thought and irreverence will always bring more pleasure than a stevia induced song trying to wash the world away. 

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